Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chief Inspector Gamache and the Near Enemies

I’m still reading the fabulous mystery series by Louise Penny that features Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. I love this guy—and I love the psychological lessons that Penny loads into these books. With each new volume I learn things that I can apply to my recovery and personal growth.

This week is it the concept of “Near Enemies”: a psychological framework in which two emotional states can look the same but are actually opposites. Near Enemies derives from a Buddhist teaching where a positive psychological state has a sort of, “evil twin”.  One parades as the other, and is mistaken for the other, but one is healthy and the other is sick.

Here are examples: Attachment can masquerade as Love; Pity as Compassion and Indifference as Equanimity.

We understand the first pair from codependency: Real love wants the other’s best interests; wants the other to grow, to go, to get on with life and to change; Love wants the other to be independent. But attachment clings, stifles, enables and cripples in the name of love.

The second pair is Compassion and Pity: Compassion involves empathy. You see the stricken person as an equal. Pity doesn’t. If you pity someone you feel superior to him or her.

And then the pair of Equanimity and Indifference. Louise Penny calls this the most corrosive pair. “Equanimity is balance. When something overwhelming happens in our lives we feel it but we also have the ability to overcome it. We might feel huge grief or sorrow, but deep down inside people find a core. That’s equanimity.” But, she goes on to explain, Indifference is stoicism, calm in a crisis without feeling, they don’t feel pain because they don’t care. People with equanimity can absorb a pain, feel it fully, and let it go. But they might look exactly like people who don’t care at all. “But who is really brave and who is the near enemy?”

If you are interested in The Louise Penny mystery series begin with the book, “Still Life” and go from there.

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